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Curing Concrete

Curing is the maintenance of a satisfactory moisture con- tains more water than is required for hydration of the ce-
tent and temperature in concrete for a period of time imme- ment; however, excessive loss of water by evaporation can
diately following placing and finishing so that the desired delay or prevent adequate hydration. The surface is partic-
properties may develop (Fig. 12-1). The need for adequate ularly susceptible to insufficient hydration because it dries
curing of concrete cannot be overemphasized. Curing has a first. If temperatures are favorable, hydration is relatively
strong influence on the properties of hardened concrete; rapid the first few days after concrete is placed; however, it
proper curing will increase durability, strength, watertight- is important for water to be retained in the concrete during
ness, abrasion resistance, volume stability, and resistance to this period, that is, for evaporation to be prevented or sub-
freezing and thawing and deicers. Exposed slab surfaces stantially reduced.
are especially sensitive to curing as strength development With proper curing, concrete becomes stronger, more
and freeze-thaw resistance of the top surface of a slab can impermeable, and more resistant to stress, abrasion, and
be reduced significantly when curing is defective. freezing and thawing. The improvement is rapid at early
When portland cement is mixed with water, a chemical ages but continues more slowly thereafter for an indefinite
reaction called hydration takes place. The extent to which period. Fig. 12-2 shows the strength gain of concrete with
this reaction is completed influences the strength and dura- age for different moist curing periods and Fig. 12-3 shows
bility of the concrete. Freshly mixed concrete normally con- the relative strength gain of concrete cured at different

Moist-cured entire time
In air after 28 days moist curing Compressive strength, 1000 psi
Compressive strength, MPa

40 6
In air after 7 days moist curing

In laboratory air entire time




0 0
0 7 28 90 365
Fig. 12-1. Curing should begin as soon as the concrete Age at test, days
stiffens enough to prevent marring or erosion of the sur-
face. Burlap sprayed with water is an effective method for Fig. 12-2. Effect of moist curing time on strength gain of
moist curing. (69973) concrete (Gonnerman and Shuman 1928).

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures ◆ EB001

125 this, membrane-forming curing compounds may not

retain enough water in the concrete. Therefore, fogging
Compressive strength, % 28-day strength

and wet curing become necessary to maximize hydration

(Copeland and Bragg 1955). Fogging during and after
placing and finishing also helps minimize plastic cracking
85 in concretes with very low water-cement ratios (especially
around 0.30 or less).
When moist curing is interrupted, the development of
65 strength continues for a short period and then stops after
Casting/curing temperature, °C (°F)
23/23 (73/73) the concrete’s internal relative humidity drops to about
32/32 (90/90) 80%. However, if moist curing is resumed, strength devel-
10/10 (50/50) opment will be reactivated, but the original potential
23/10 (73/50) strength may not be achieved. Although it can be done in
25 a laboratory, it is difficult to resaturate concrete in the
0 20 40 60 field. Thus, it is best to moist-cure the concrete continu-
Age, days
ously from the time it is placed and finished until it has
120 gained sufficient strength, impermeability, and durability.
Loss of water will also cause the concrete to shrink,
thus creating tensile stresses within the concrete. If these
Compressive strength, % 23°C (73°F)

stresses develop before the concrete has attained adequate

tensile strength, surface cracking can result. All exposed
surfaces, including exposed edges and joints, must be pro-
tected against moisture evaporation.
Hydration proceeds at a much slower rate when the
concrete temperature is low. Temperatures below 10°C
80 Casting/curing temperature, °C (°F) (50°F) are unfavorable for the development of early
23/23 (73/73) strength; below 4°C (40°F) the development of early
32/32 (90/90) strength is greatly retarded; and at or below freezing
10/10 (50/50)
23/10 (73/50)
temperatures, down to -10°C (14°F), little or no strength
0 20 40 60 In recent years, a maturity concept has been introduced
Age, days to evaluate the development of strength when there is vari-
Fig. 12-3. Effect of curing temperature on strength gain
ation in the curing temperature of the concrete. Maturity is
(top) relative to 28-day strength and (bottom) relative to the the product of the age of the concrete and its average curing
strength of concrete at 23°C (73°F) (Burg 1996). temperature above a certain base temperature. Refer to
Chapter 14 for more information on the maturity concept. It
follows that concrete should be protected so that its tem-
perature remains favorable for hydration and moisture is
not lost during the early hardening period.
The most effective method for curing concrete
depends on the materials used, method of construction,
and the intended use of the hardened concrete. For most CURING METHODS AND MATERIALS
jobs, curing generally involves applying curing com-
pounds, or covering the freshly placed and finished con- Concrete can be kept moist (and in some cases at a favor-
crete with impermeable sheets or wet burlap. In some able temperature) by three curing methods:
cases, such as in hot and cold weather, special care using 1. Methods that maintain the presence of mixing water
other precautions is needed. in the concrete during the early hardening period.
Concrete mixtures with high cement contents and low These include ponding or immersion, spraying or
water-cement ratios (less than 0.40) may require special fogging, and saturated wet coverings. These methods
curing needs. As cement hydrates (chemically combining afford some cooling through evaporation, which is
with water) the internal relative humidity decreases caus- beneficial in hot weather.
ing the paste to self-desiccate (dry out) if no external water 2. Methods that reduce the loss of mixing water from
is provided. The paste can self-desiccate to a level where the surface of the concrete. This can be done by cov-
hydration stops. This may influence desired concrete ering the concrete with impervious paper or plastic
properties, especially if the internal relative humidity sheets, or by applying membrane-forming curing
drops below 80% within the first seven days. In view of compounds.

Chapter 12 ◆ Curing Concrete

3. Methods that accelerate strength gain by supplying

heat and additional moisture to the concrete. This is
usually accomplished with live steam, heating coils,
or electrically heated forms or pads.
The method or combination of methods chosen
depends on factors such as availability of curing materials,
size, shape, and age of concrete, production facilities (in
place or in a plant), esthetic appearance, and economics.
As a result, curing often involves a series of procedures
used at a particular time as the concrete ages. For example,
fog spraying or plastic covered wet burlap can precede
application of a curing compound. The timing of each
procedure depends on the degree of hardening of the con-
crete needed to prevent the particular procedure from
damaging the concrete surface (ACI 308 1997).

Ponding and Immersion Fig. 12-4. Fogging minimizes moisture loss during and after
placing and finishing of concrete. (69974)
On flat surfaces, such as pavements and floors, concrete
can be cured by ponding. Earth or sand dikes around the
perimeter of the concrete surface can retain a pond of
water. Ponding is an ideal method for preventing loss of water by using burlap or similar materials; otherwise
moisture from the concrete; it is also effective for main- alternate cycles of wetting and drying can cause surface
taining a uniform temperature in the concrete. The curing crazing or cracking.
water should not be more than about 11°C (20°F) cooler
than the concrete to prevent thermal stresses that could Wet Coverings
result in cracking. Since ponding requires considerable
labor and supervision, the method is generally used only Fabric coverings saturated with water, such as burlap,
for small jobs. cotton mats, rugs, or other moisture-retaining fabrics, are
The most thorough method of curing with water con- commonly used for curing (Fig. 12-5). Treated burlaps that
sists of total immersion of the finished concrete element. reflect light and are resistant to rot and fire are available.
This method is commonly used in the laboratory for The requirements for burlap are described in the Specifica-
curing concrete test specimens. Where appearance of the tion for Burlap Cloths Made from Jute or Kenaf (AASHTO M
concrete is important, the water used for curing by pond- 182), and those for white burlap-polyethylene sheeting are
ing or immersion must be free of substances that will stain described in ASTM C 171 (AASHTO M 171).
or discolor the concrete. The material used for dikes may
also discolor the concrete.

Fogging and Sprinkling

Fogging (Fig. 12-4) and sprinkling with water are excellent
methods of curing when the ambient temperature is well
above freezing and the humidity is low. A fine fog mist is
frequently applied through a system of nozzles or
sprayers to raise the relative humidity of the air over flat-
work, thus slowing evaporation from the surface. Fogging
is applied to minimize plastic shrinkage cracking until fin-
ishing operations are complete. Once the concrete has set
sufficiently to prevent water erosion, ordinary lawn sprin-
klers are effective if good coverage is provided and water
runoff is of no concern. Soaker hoses are useful on surfaces
that are vertical or nearly so.
The cost of sprinkling may be a disadvantage. The Fig. 12-5. Lawn sprinklers saturating burlap with water keep
method requires an ample water supply and careful the concrete continuously moist. Intermittent sprinkling is
supervision. If sprinkling is done at intervals, the concrete acceptable if no drying of the concrete surface occurs.
must be prevented from drying between applications of (50177)

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures ◆ EB001

Burlap must be free of any substance that is harmful

to concrete or causes discoloration. New burlap should be
thoroughly rinsed in water to remove soluble substances
and to make the burlap more absorbent.
Wet, moisture-retaining fabric coverings should be
placed as soon as the concrete has hardened sufficiently to
prevent surface damage. During the waiting period other
curing methods are used, such as fogging or the use of
membrane forming finishing aids. Care should be taken to
cover the entire surface with wet fabric, including the
edges of slabs. The coverings should be kept continuously
moist so that a film of water remains on the concrete sur-
face throughout the curing period. Use of polyethylene
film over wet burlap is a good practice; it will eliminate
the need for continuous watering of the covering.
Periodically rewetting the fabric under the plastic before it
dries out should be sufficient. Alternate cycles of wetting Fig.12-6. Impervious curing paper is an efficient means of
and drying during the early curing period may cause curing horizontal surfaces. (69994)
crazing of the surface.
Wet coverings of earth, sand, or sawdust are effective
for curing and are often useful on small jobs. Sawdust from
most woods is acceptable, but oak and other woods that
contain tannic acid should not be used since deterioration curing-paper patches. When the condition of the paper is
of the concrete may occur. A layer about 50 mm (2 in.) thick questionable, additional use can be obtained by using it in
should be evenly distributed over the previously mois- double thickness.
tened surface of the concrete and kept continuously wet. In addition to curing, impervious paper provides
Wet hay or straw can be used to cure flat surfaces. If some protection to the concrete against damage from sub-
used, it should be placed in a layer at least 150 mm (6 in.) sequent construction activity as well as protection from
thick and held down with wire screen, burlap, or tarpau- the direct sun. It should be light in color and nonstaining
lins to prevent its being blown off by wind.
to the concrete. Paper with a white upper surface is prefer-
A major disadvantage of moist earth, sand, sawdust,
able for curing exterior concrete during hot weather.
hay, or straw coverings is the possibility of discoloring
the concrete.
Plastic Sheets
Impervious Paper Plastic sheet materials, such as polyethylene film, can be
used to cure concrete (Fig. 12-7). Polyethylene film is a
Impervious paper for curing concrete consists of two
lightweight, effective moisture retarder and is easily
sheets of kraft paper cemented together by a bituminous
applied to complex as well as simple shapes. Its applica-
adhesive with fiber reinforcement. Such paper, con-
forming to ASTM C 171 (AASHTO M 171), is an efficient tion is the same as described for impervious paper.
means of curing horizontal surfaces and structural con- Curing with polyethylene film (or impervious paper)
crete of relatively simple shapes. An important advantage can cause patchy discoloration, especially if the concrete
of this method is that periodic additions of water are not contains calcium chloride and has been finished by hard-
required. Curing with impervious paper enhances the steel troweling. This discoloration is more pronounced
hydration of cement by preventing loss of moisture from when the film becomes wrinkled, but it is difficult and
the concrete (Fig. 12-6). time consuming on a large project to place sheet materials
As soon as the concrete has hardened sufficiently to without wrinkles. Flooding the surface under the covering
prevent surface damage, it should be thoroughly wetted may prevent discoloration, but other means of curing
and the widest paper available applied. Edges of adjacent should be used when uniform color is important.
sheets should be overlapped about 150 mm (6 in.) and Polyethylene film should conform to ASTM C 171
tightly sealed with sand, wood planks, pressure-sensitive (AASHTO M 171), which specifies a 0.10-mm (4-mil)
tape, mastic, or glue. The sheets must be weighted to thickness for curing concrete, but lists only clear and white
maintain close contact with the concrete surface during opaque film. However, black film is available and is satis-
the entire curing period. factory under some conditions. White film should be used
Impervious paper can be reused if it effectively retains for curing exterior concrete during hot weather to reflect
moisture. Tears and holes can easily be repaired with the sun’s rays. Black film can be used during cool weather

Chapter 12 ◆ Curing Concrete

recommended; they reduce solar-heat gain, thus reducing

the concrete temperature. Pigmented compounds should
be kept agitated in the container to prevent pigment from
settling out.
Curing compounds should be applied by hand-oper-
ated or power-driven spray equipment immediately after
final finishing of the concrete (Fig. 12-8). The concrete sur-
face should be damp when the coating is applied. On dry,
windy days, or during periods when adverse weather
conditions could result in plastic shrinkage cracking,
application of a curing compound immediately after final
finishing and before all free water on the surface has
evaporated will help prevent the formation of cracks.
Power-driven spray equipment is recommended for uni-
form application of curing compounds on large paving
projects. Spray nozzles and windshields on such equip-
Fig. 12-7. Polyethylene film is an effective moisture barrier
for curing concrete and easily applied to complex as well as ment should be arranged to prevent wind-blown loss of
simple shapes. To minimize discoloration, the film should curing compound.
be kept as flat as possible on the concrete surface. (70014) Normally only one smooth, even coat is applied at a
typical rate of 3 to 4 m2 per liter (150 to 200 sq ft per gallon);
but products may vary, so manufacturer’s recommended
application rates should be followed. If two coats are nec-
essary to ensure complete coverage, for effective protection
or for interior locations. Clear film has little effect on heat the second coat should be applied at right angles to the
absorption. first. Complete coverage of the surface must be attained
ASTM C 171 (AASHTO M 171) also includes a sheet because even small pinholes in the membrane will increase
material consisting of burlap impregnated on one side the evaporation of moisture from the concrete.
with white opaque polyethylene film. Combinations of Curing compounds might prevent bonding between
polyethylene film bonded to an absorbent fabric such as hardened concrete and a freshly placed concrete overlay.
burlap help retain moisture on the concrete surface. And, most curing compounds are not compatible with ad-
Polyethylene film may also be placed over wet burlap hesives used with floor covering materials. Consequently,
or other wet covering materials to retain the water in the they should either be tested for compatibility, or not used
wet covering material. This procedure eliminates the when bonding of overlying materials is necessary. For
labor-intensive need for continuous watering of wet cov- example, a curing compound should not be applied to the
ering materials.

Membrane-Forming Curing Compounds

Liquid membrane-forming compounds consisting of
waxes, resins, chlorinated rubber, and other materials can
be used to retard or reduce evaporation of moisture from
concrete. They are the most practical and most widely
used method for curing not only freshly placed concrete
but also for extending curing of concrete after removal of
forms or after initial moist curing. However, the most
effective methods of curing concrete are wet coverings or
water spraying that keeps the concrete continually damp.
Curing compounds should be able to maintain the relative
humidity of the concrete surface above 80% for seven days
to sustain cement hydration.
Membrane-forming curing compounds are of two
general types: clear, or translucent; and white pigmented.
Clear or translucent compounds may contain a fugitive
dye that makes it easier to check visually for complete Fig. 12-8. Liquid membrane-forming curing compounds
coverage of the concrete surface when the compound is should be applied with uniform and adequate coverage
applied. The dye fades away soon after application. On over the entire surface and edges for effective, extended
hot, sunny days, use of white-pigmented compounds are curing of concrete. (69975)

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures ◆ EB001

base slab of a two-course floor. Similarly, some curing Steam Curing

compounds may affect the adhesion of paint to concrete
floors. Curing compound manufacturers should be con- Steam curing is advantageous where early strength gain
sulted to determine if their product is suitable for the in concrete is important or where additional heat is re-
intended application. quired to accomplish hydration, as in cold weather.
Curing compounds should be uniform and easy to Two methods of steam curing are used: live steam at
maintain in a thoroughly mixed solution. They should not atmospheric pressure (for enclosed cast-in-place structures
sag, run off peaks, or collect in grooves. They should form and large precast concrete units) and high-pressure steam
a tough film to withstand early construction traffic in autoclaves (for small manufactured units). Only live
without damage, be nonyellowing, and have good mois- steam at atmospheric pressure will be discussed here.
ture-retention properties. A typical steam-curing cycle consists of (1) an initial
Caution is necessary when using curing compounds delay prior to steaming, (2) a period for increasing the
containing solvents of high volatility in confined spaces or temperature, (3) a period for holding the maximum tem-
near sensitive occupied spaces such as hospitals because perature constant, and (4) a period for decreasing the
evaporating volatiles may cause respiratory problems. temperature. A typical atmospheric steam-curing cycle is
Applicable local environmental laws concerning volatile shown in Fig. 12-9.
organic compound (VOC) emissions should be followed. Steam curing at atmospheric pressure is generally
Curing compounds should conform to ASTM C 309 done in an enclosure to minimize moisture and heat losses.
(AASHTO M 148). A method for determining the efficiency Tarpaulins are frequently used to form the enclosure.
of curing compounds, waterproof paper, and plastic sheets Application of steam to the enclosure should be delayed
is described in ASTM C 156 (AASHTO T 155). ASTM C until initial set occurs or delayed at least 3 hours after final
1151, discontinued in 2000, also evaluates the effectiveness placement of concrete to allow for some hardening of the
of curing compounds. Curing compounds with sealing concrete. However, a 3- to 5- hour delay period prior to
properties are specified under ASTM C 1315. steaming will achieve maximum early strength, as shown
in Fig. 12-10.
Internal Moist Curing Steam temperature in the enclosure should be kept at
about 60°C (140°F) until the desired concrete strength has
Internal moist curing refers to methods of providing mois- developed. Strength will not increase significantly if the
ture from within the concrete as opposed to outside the maximum steam temperature is raised from 60°C to 70°C
concrete. This water should not effect the initial water to (140°F to 160°F). Steam-curing temperatures above 70°C
cement ratio of the fresh concrete. Lightweight (low-den- (160°F) should be avoided; they are uneconomical and
sity) fine aggregate or absorbent polymer particles with an
ability to retain a significant amount of water may provide
additional moisture for concretes prone to self desiccation.
When more complete hydration is needed for concretes
with low water to cement ratios (around 0.30 or less),
60 kg/m3 to 180 kg/m3 (100 lb/yd3 to 300 lb/yd3) of satu- Initial concrete temp. = 21°C (70°F)
Temperature within steam enclosure, °C

rated lightweight fine aggregate can provide additional

Temperature within steam enclosure, °F

Steam temp. in enclosure held to 60°C (140°F), 160
moisture to extend hydration, resulting in increased until desired concrete strength is developed
strength and durability. All of the fine aggregate in a mix- 60 140
Temp. reduced at
ture can be replaced with saturated lightweight fine 20°C (40°F)/hr until 120
aggregate to maximize internal moist curing. Internal within 10°C (20°F)
40 of outside air
moist curing must be accompanied by external curing 100
Outside air
methods. at 10°C Steam applied to
(50°F) enclosure at rate of 80
20 10 to 20°C (20 to 40°F)/hr
Forms Left in Place 1 2
3 4
Forms provide satisfactory protection against loss of mois- 0 40
ture if the top exposed concrete surfaces are kept wet. A 0 5 10 15 20 24
Time after placing, hours
soaker hose is excellent for this. The forms should be left
on the concrete as long as practical. 1 Initial delay prior to steaming
3 to 5 hours
Wood forms left in place should be kept moist by 2 Temperature increase period 21/2 hours
3 Constant temperature period 6 to 12 hours*
sprinkling, especially during hot, dry weather. If this
4 Temperature decrease period 2 hours
cannot be done, they should be removed as soon as prac-
tical and another curing method started without delay. *Type III or high-early-strength cement,
longer for other types
Color variations may occur from formwork and uneven
water curing of walls. Fig. 12-9. A typical atmospheric steam-curing cycle.

Chapter 12 ◆ Curing Concrete

80 and steam temperature in the enclosure (ACI Committee

517 1992).

80°C (175°F) max steam temperature

Insulating Blankets or Covers
60 65°C (150°F)
Compressive strength at 18 hours,

Layers of dry, porous material such as straw or hay can be

% of 28-day moist-cured strength

used to provide insulation against freezing of concrete

52°C (125°F)
when temperatures fall below 0°C (32°F).
Formwork can be economically insulated with com-
mercial blanket or batt insulation that has a tough mois-
tureproof covering. Suitable insulating blankets are
manufactured of fiberglass, sponge rubber, cellulose
fibers, mineral wool, vinyl foam, and open-cell poly-
20 urethane foam. When insulated formwork is used, care
Note: Steam temperature increased
22°C (40°F)/hr up to maximum should be taken to ensure that concrete temperatures do
Type I cement not become excessive.
Framed enclosures of canvas tarpaulins, reinforced
polyethylene film, or other materials can be placed around
1 3 5 7 9 11 13 15 the structure and heated by space heaters or steam.
Delay period prior to steaming, hours
Portable hydronic heaters are used to thaw subgrades as
17 15 13 11 9 7 5 3 well as heat concrete without the use of an enclosure
Steaming period, hours
Curing concrete in cold weather should follow the
Fig. 12-10. Relationship between strength at 18 hours and
recommendations in Chapter 14 and ACI 306 (1997), Cold-
delay period prior to steaming. In each case, the delay
period plus the steaming period totaled 18 hours (Hanson Weather Concreting. Recommendations for curing concrete
1963). in hot weather can be found in Chapter 13 and ACI 305,
Hot-Weather Concreting.

Electrical, Oil, Microwave, and

Infrared Curing
may result in damage. It is recommended that the internal
Electrical, hot oil, microwave and infrared curing methods
temperature of concrete not exceed 70°C (160°F) to avoid have been available for accelerated and normal curing of
heat induced delayed expansion and undue reduction in concrete for many years. Electrical curing methods
ultimate strength. Use of concrete temperatures above include a variety of techniques: (1) use of the concrete
70°C (160°F) should be demonstrated to be safe by test or itself as the electrical conductor, (2) use of reinforcing steel
historic field data. as the heating element, (3) use of a special wire as the
Concrete temperatures are commonly monitored at heating element, (4) electric blankets, and (5) the use of
the exposed ends of the concrete element. Monitoring air electrically heated steel forms (presently the most popular
temperatures alone is not sufficient because the heat of method). Electrical heating is especially useful in cold-
hydration may cause the internal temperature of the con- weather concreting. Hot oil may be circulated through
crete to exceed 70°C (160°F). Besides early strength gain, steel forms to heat the concrete. Infrared rays and
there are other advantages of curing concrete at tempera- microwave have had limited use in accelerated curing of
tures of around 60°C (140°F); for example, there is reduced concrete. Concrete that is cured by infrared methods is
drying shrinkage and creep as compared to concrete cured usually under a covering or enclosed in steel forms.
at 23°C (73°F) for 28 days (Klieger 1960 and Tepponen and Electrical, oil, and infrared curing methods are used pri-
Eriksson 1987). marily in the precast concrete industry.
Excessive rates of heating and cooling should be
avoided to prevent damaging volume changes. Tempera-
tures in the enclosure surrounding the concrete should not
be increased or decreased more than 22°C to 33°C (40°F to The period of time that concrete should be protected from
60°F) per hour depending on the size and shape of the freezing, abnormally high temperatures, and against loss
concrete element. of moisture depends upon a number of factors: the type of
The curing temperature in the enclosure should be cementing materials used; mixture proportions; required
held until the concrete has reached the desired strength. strength, size and shape of the concrete member; ambient
The time required will depend on the concrete mixture weather; and future exposure conditions. The curing

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures ◆ EB001

period may be 3 weeks or longer for lean concrete mix- cylinders or beams should be fabricated in the field, kept
tures used in massive structures such as dams; conversely, adjacent to the structure or pavement they represent, and
it may be only a few days for rich mixes, especially if Type cured by the same methods. Equipment is available that
III or HE cement is used. Steam-curing periods are nor- can monitor internal concrete temperatures and match
mally much shorter, ranging from a few hours to 3 days; that temperature in the concrete cylinder curing box; this
but generally 24-hour cycles are used. Since all the desir- is the most accurate means of representing in-place con-
able properties of concrete are improved by curing, the crete strengths. Cores, cast-in-place removable cylinders,
curing period should be as long as necessary. and nondestructive testing methods may also be used to
For concrete slabs on ground (floors, pavements, canal determine the strength of a concrete member.
linings, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks) and for struc- Since the rate of hydration is influenced by cement
tural concrete (cast-in-place walls, columns, slabs, beams, type and the presence of supplementary cementing mate-
small footings, piers, retaining walls, bridge decks), the rials, the curing period should be prolonged for concretes
length of the curing period for ambient temperatures made with cementing materials possessing slow-strength-
above 5°C (40°F) should be a minimum of 7 days; addi- gain characteristics. For mass concrete (large piers, locks,
tional time may be needed to attain 70% of the specified abutments, dams, heavy footings, and massive columns
compressive or flexural strength. When the daily mean and transfer girders) in which no pozzolan is used as part
ambient temperature is 5°C (40°F) or lower, ACI of the cementitious material, curing of unreinforced sec-
Committee 306 recommendations for curing should be tions should continue for at least 2 weeks. If the mass con-
followed to prevent damage by freezing. crete contains a pozzolan, minimum curing time for
A higher curing temperature provides earlier strength unreinforced sections should be extended to 3 weeks.
gain in concrete than a lower temperature but it may Heavily-reinforced mass concrete sections should be
decrease 28-day strength as shown in Fig. 12-11. If strength cured for a minimum of 7 days.
tests are made to establish the time when curing can cease During cold weather, additional heat is often required
or forms can be removed, representative concrete test to maintain favorable curing temperatures of 10°C to 20°C
(50°F to 70°F). Vented gas or oil-fired heaters, heating
coils, portable hydronic heaters, or live steam can be used
to supply the required heat. In all cases, care must be taken
to avoid loss of moisture from the concrete. Exposure of
Curing temperature, °F
fresh concrete to heater or engine exhaust gases must be
40 60 80 100 120
avoided as this can result in surface deterioration and
dusting (rapid carbonation).
6 High-early-strength concrete can be used in cold
40 At 28 days weather to speed-up setting time and strength develop-
ment. This can reduce the curing period, but a minimum
5 temperature of 10°C (50°F) must be maintained.
For adequate deicer scale resistance of concrete, the
Compressive strength, 1000 psi

minimum curing period generally corresponds to the time

Compressive strength, MPa

required to develop the design strength of the concrete at
the surface. A period of air-drying after curing will
enhance resistance to scaling. This drying period should
be at least 1 month of relatively dry weather before the
3 application of deicing salts.


Sealing compounds (sealers) are liquids applied to the
10 surface of hardened concrete to reduce the penetration of
1 liquids or gases such as water, deicing solutions, and
carbon dioxide that cause freeze-thaw damage, corrosion
of reinforcing steel, and acid attack. In addition, sealing
compounds used on interior floor slabs reduce dusting
10 20 30 40 50 and the absorption of spills while making the surface
Curing temperature, °C easier to clean.
Sealing compounds differ in purpose from curing
Fig. 12-11. One-day strength increases with increasing
curing temperature, but 28-day strength decreases with compounds; they should not be confused as being the
increasing curing temperature (Verbeck and Helmuth 1968). same. The primary purpose of a curing compound is to re-

Chapter 12 ◆ Curing Concrete

tard the loss of water from newly placed concrete and it is than film-forming sealers. However, periodic retreatment
applied immediately after finishing. Surface sealing com- is recommended. In northern states and coastal areas
pounds on the other hand retard the penetration of silanes and siloxanes are popular for protecting bridge
harmful substances into hardened concrete and are typi- decks and other exterior structures from corrosion of rein-
cally not applied until the concrete is 28 days old. Surface forcing steel caused by chloride infiltration from deicing
sealers are generally classified as either film-forming or chemicals or sea spray (Fig 12-12).
penetrating. Application of any sealer should only be done on
Sealing exterior concrete is an optional procedure concrete that is clean and allowed to dry for at least
generally performed to help protect concrete from freeze- 24 hours at temperatures above 16°C (60°F). At least
thaw damage and chloride penetration from deicers. 28 days should be allowed to elapse before applying
Curing is not optional when using a sealer; curing is nec- sealers to new concrete. Penetrating sealers cannot fill
essary to produce properties needed for concrete to per- surface voids if they are filled with water. Some surface
form adequately for its intended purpose. Satisfactory preparation may be necessary if the concrete is old and
performance of exterior concrete still primarily depends dirty. Concrete placed in the late fall should not be sealed
on an adequate air-void system, sufficient strength, and until spring because the sealer may cause the concrete to
the use of proper placing, finishing and curing tech- retain water that may exacerbate freeze-thaw damage.
niques. However, not all concrete placed meets those cri- The precautions outlined earlier regarding volatile sol-
teria; surface sealers can help improve the durability of vents in curing compounds also apply to sealing com-
these concretes.
pounds. The effectiveness of water-based surface sealers is
Film-forming sealing compounds remain mostly on
still being determined. The scale resistance provided by
the surface with only a slight amount of the material pen-
concrete sealers should be evaluated based on criteria
etrating the concrete. The relatively large molecular struc-
established in ASTM C 672. For more information on sur-
ture of these compounds limits their ability to penetrate
face sealing compounds, see AASHTO M 224, ACI Com-
the surface. Thinning them with solvents will not improve
mittee 330 and ACI Committee 362.
their penetrating capability. These materials not only
reduce the penetration of water, they also protect against
mild chemicals; furthermore, they prevent the absorption
of grease and oil as well as reduce dusting under pedes-
trian traffic.
Surface sealers consist of acrylic resins, chlorinated
rubber, urethanes, epoxies, and alpha methyl styrene. The
effectiveness of film-forming sealers depends on the con-
tinuity of the layer formed. Abrasive grit and heavy traffic
can damage the layer requiring the reapplication of the
material. Consult manufacturers’ application recommen-
dations because some of these materials are intended for
interior use only and may yellow and deteriorate under
exposure to ultraviolet light.
The penetrating sealer that has been used most exten-
sively for many years is a mixture of 50 percent boiled lin-
seed oil and 50 percent mineral spirits (AASHTO M 233).
Although this mixture is an effective sealer, it has two
main disadvantages: it darkens the concrete, and periodic
reapplication is necessary for long-term protection.
A new generation of water-repellent penetrating
sealers have a very small molecular size that allows pen- Fig 12-12. Penetrating sealers help protect reinforcing steel
etration and saturation of the concrete as deep as 3 mm in bridge decks from corrosion due to chloride infiltration
(1⁄8 in.). The two most common are silane and siloxane, without reducing surface friction. (69976)
compounds which are derived from the silicone family.
These sealers allow the concrete to breath, thus pre-
venting a buildup of vapor pressure between the concrete
and sealer that can occur with some film-forming mate-
rials. Because the sealer is embedded within the concrete,
making it more durable to abrasive forces or ultraviolet
deterioration, it can provide longer lasting protection

Design and Control of Concrete Mixtures ◆ EB001

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